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On "Blinkey" Palermo's vehicles for color

By Jim Long

Palermo, born Peter Schwarze, studied with Joseph Beuys and acquired the name "Blinkey" Palmero.

David Zwirner gallery is currently exhibiting "Palermo: Works on Paper 1976-1977," acrylic and graphite works on paper mounted on cardboard: late work from an artist whose active period spanned scarcely 15 years. Nearly all are loosely brushed variations on geometric figure/ground motifs in a limited range of red, yellow, blue, green, and black. The groups are uniform in size, elegantly framed and presented in rows echoing the minimalist aesthetic of the time.

Palermo, trained in graphic design before entering the academy, devised an engaging abstract vocabulary, part conceptual, part minimal, part arte povera based on sampling Kelly, Beuys. Mondrian, Tuttle, Marden, Malevich, Klee, Kandinsky, Popova, Rothko, Newman?how many others? Each "set" is grouped and experienced somewhat cinematically, like animation cells or montage. Palermo's lasting contribution may well be his ability to impart a sense of locomotion to inherently static geometric form while avoiding illustration strategies. He is interested in the anonymity that is the root of monumentality in abstraction, but energetically resists allowing the work to become monumental.

A few favorite strategies repeat: a triangular edge intrudes into the field from the lower left corner: suggesting Klee's transparent over-lapping planes, Popova and Malevich's home-cooked geometries, or maybe the BMW logo. Edges are sometimes crisp, often fluid, in the manner of Beuys, always displaying a sure touch. Abstract form as vehicle for color is not new, and Palermo's works on paper can appear to simply unpack Kandinsky or Mondrian and rearrange it horizontally. Yet the work is delightfully engaging. In New York, in 1976, it would have been out-of-the-way: not unfashionable, simply from somewhere else.

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